- It is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
- It is the third most common type of non-skin cancer in men and women.
- Almost half of the casess occur in patients over 75 years. 93% of new cases are diagnosed in people who are 50 or older.
- Less than half of the people who should get screened do.
It is colorectal cancer (CRC), the cancer no one likes to talk about. And the reason is that when you discuss the colon, you have to talk about poop. And no one likes to talk about poop, even to their doctors.
The embarrassment factor is so huge that the Centers for Disease Control estimate that ⅓ of the people who die from colorectal could have been saved if they’d been able to get over being embarrassed about screenings.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
“Age is a major risk factor for CRC. The incidence increases with age, with a median age of diagnosis at about 70 years. Approximately 70% of cases develop over the age of 65, and 40% of patients in total are 75 years or older,” notes a study in Therapeutic Advances in Medical Oncology.
Other risk factors include
- Overweight or obese
- Diet high in red and processed meats
- Heavy alcohol use
- History of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
- History of inflammatory bowel disease
- Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Having certain inherited syndromes, including familial adenomatous polyposis, Lynch syndrome, Turcot syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, and MUTYH-associated polyposis
- African-American or Ashkenazi Jewish
- Type 2 diabetes
Research has indicated a link between regular night shift work or testicular or prostate cancer and CRC, but it has not yet been validated.
Colorectal Cancer Screening Options
No one likes to think of colorectal cancer. The thought of being screened is even more unpopular. Less than half of over-50 American men and women are screened for colon cancer. In addition to embarrassment, another reason is most people believe a colonoscopy is the only test used.
Well, you’re in for a happy surprise! There are other, less-invasive tests to detect the presence of colorectal cancer. They include:
- High-sensitivity fecal occult blood tests (FOBT).
- Stool DNA test (FIT-DNA).
- Virtual or CT Colonoscopy
The FOBT and FIT-DNA tests require a stool sample. The CT Colonoscopy uses a CT scan.
Another test, the sigmoidoscopy, is very similar to a colonoscopy, although it sometimes does not require sedation.
The colonoscopy is most frequently prescribed, because it provides the most accurate results for most people. It requires a clear-liquid diet for about 24 hours before the procedure, drinking up to a gallon of (usually) foul-tasting laxative solution, significant time on the toilet, and sedation during the actual test.
Consumer Reports, the folks who help us make good buys, have stepped in with advice about how to make colonoscopy prep a little easier. They offer the following counsel:
- If your doctor approves, add lemon, lime, ginger, or a flavor enhancer like Crystal Light to the laxative solution.
- Chill the solution before drinking to improve the taste.
- Use a straw to drink the chilled solution.
- Eat lighter than usual and avoid high-fiber foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, for a few days before the prep to avoid explosive results after taking the laxative.
- Stay near a bathroom and use flushable wipes and diaper ointment to soothe irritation.
Colorectal Cancer Symptoms
Screening and talking about colorectal cancer is no fun, but it sure beats the symptoms of the disease. They include:
- Diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that is not relieved by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which may make the stool look dark
- Cramping or abdominal pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
If surgery is required and you survive, you may have to wear a colostomy bag for the rest of your life. How’s that for embarrassment?
Ignoring CRC does not prevent you from getting it.
We Don’t Want to Talk about It
At The Esquiline, we don’t want to talk about colorectal cancer and colonoscopy. But we do.
We talk about it because your life is important to us. That’s also why we promote the physical, social, intellectual and spiritual wellness of our residents through classes, programs, travel opportunities, religious ceremonies and more.
We also publish informational material that we hope will be of use to older adults in our blogs.
To learn more about the wellness opportunities we offer at The Esquiline, give us a call at 800-533-6279 or complete our online form here.